Comfort Food Kept Sophisticatedly Simple

October 12, 2012, Copyright © 2012

WHAT kind of dining experience would you expect to have in a restaurant serving corn chowder, pork and beans, and fried chicken with watermelon? Almost certainly not what you get at Millwright’s, where Tyler Anderson offers a brashly elegant take on these and other homey American classics. A winner on the Food Network show “Chopped,” Mr. Anderson decamped this summer from Copper Beech Inn in Ivoryton to open his own restaurant in a historic West Street mill. His fans have been thronging the place ever since. Fancying up comfort food is fraught with peril, and not every dish on Mr. Anderson’s menu succeeds. Foie grasmousse topped with grape jelly and candied peanuts — “the house p.b.j.,” our server quipped — was not only too coy, but unbalanced, the jelly overwhelming the duck liver. I also wondered about the crisped puffed rice adorning an appetizer of fabulously fresh raw tuna, introducing an odd, breakfast note.

But far more often, the gamble paid off brilliantly. A starter of chicken with dumplings turned out to be a complex presentation of velvety smooth gnocchi, confit chicken and hints of mint. Grilled cheese and tomato came in two components: an herbed tomato terrine, delicately held together with tomato gelée, and a deliriously tasty grilled mini-sandwich of Cheddar and custard-soaked brioche. Millwright’s chowder arrives via a showy tableside presentation, with corn and lobster stacked in a bowl and then the soup — a thinned-out sauce vierge scented with anise — decanted from a porcelain pitcher. Fried chicken is also not what you might expect:

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